In an unprecedented move, a senior journalist has lectured President William Ruto on the slowdown in the economy, noting that millions of jobs are at stake. Citizen TV’s Linus Kaikai is concerned that eight companies had shut down in the flower industry alone, which does not bode well for the country’s economy.
Mr Kakai, who is Royal Media Services (RMS) Group Editorial Director, speaking on Thursday, 16th February 2023, urged President Ruto’s government to save the flower industry, which he termed the ‘Valentine Economy’.
In his weekly Kicker programme on Citizen TV’s News Gang show, Mr Kaikai claimed that eight flower companies had shut down due to the high cost of business in Kenya. He cautioned President William Ruto that Kenya’s love promotion industry is heartbroken.
“The government should no longer ignore the loud alarm bells from Kenya’s horticultural sector. On Valentine’s Day this past Tuesday, February 14, a day full of symbolism in flowers, the bells rang particularly loud,” he said in his commentary. “The Kenya Flower Council shared some very grim statistics that effectively wiped off that rosy image often painted of the country’s flower sector.
He urged the government to take appropriate measures to bring back the glory of Valentine’s Day through flower companies. “Each of the eight cited the high cost of doing business as the reason for folding up,” he said.
Kaikai is among journalists initially believed to have been on President Ruto’s blacklist for frustrating him during campaigns ahead of 2022 elections in August and it’s not clear how his latest commentary will be received at State House.
Cautioning that a ripple effect may be created in a sector that accounts for millions of jobs, Mr Kaikai aid the closures are a cause for alarm. Flower farming supports over 500,000 people, including over 100,000 flower farm employees who receive their salaries directly from the companies. By extension, the floriculture industry impacts over two million livelihoods in Kenya and outside the country.
Kenya Flower Council on Valentine’s Day warned that more flower firms could join the list of those closing shop. The horticultural sector of Flower Exporters in Kenya ranks as the third largest foreign exchange earner after tourism and tea. Kenyan flowers are majorly exported to the European market, which consumes around 40%, while 50% of Kenyan flowers are sold through Dutch Auctions and in the United Kingdom’s supermarkets which are the main outlets.
Data from the National Treasury shows that Kenya earned around Ksh158 billion from 200,000 tonnes of flower exports.
“But proverbially, roses come with thorns. The flower council reports that growers in the sector pay a minimum of 45 levies yearly,” Mr Kaikai noted. “Then there is the cost of freight that literally prices Kenya out in a region it ought to lead and dominate. While the cost of freight per kilo in Ethiopia is just 1.5 dollars, the cost of freight in Kenya is virtually double at 2.9 dollars.”
Additionally, the flower council lamented that exporters in the sector are owed up to seven years in VAT refund arrears to the tune of Ksh.15 billion.
He asked President William Ruto to ensure that the cost of doing business in Kenya comes down for flower companies. “Other than taxation, remember the 45 levies. There is the cost of electricity that is becoming insane, even for individual single-bulb lighting consumers.
Kenya’s main flower production regions include around Lake Naivasha, Mt. Kenya, Nairobi, Thika, Kiambu, Athi River, Kitale, Nakuru, Kericho, Nyandarua, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Eastern Kenya.
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